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tv   Church Committee History and Legacy  CSPAN  May 31, 2015 10:31pm-12:03am EDT

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the idea there is any sort of market power or monopoly power in this industry right now, i think is very difficult to understand. >> monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. >> 40 years ago, the senate committee to study governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities, also known as the church committee, was established to investigate intelligence gathering conducted by the c.i.a., n.s.a., and f.b.i. in the aftermath of the watergate scandal. up next, a panel discusses the history and legacy of the church committee, including how the senate historical office is collecting oral histories of involved personnel and the impact the committee's findings had on the f.b.i. the organization of american historians hosted this 90 minute discussion at their annual meeting in st. louis.
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beverly: so, we will go ahead and get started since the moment has arrived. others may trickle in from lunch, but thank you and welcome here to this panel on the church committee at 40. my name is beverly gage. i am a history professor at yale. and i will be up here mostly timekeeping and asking some questions. before i introduce the panelists, i just wanted to say a few words about the genesis of this panel, the idea behind it and some of the issues i hope we are going to be able to address. so this year, 2015, marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most important congressional committees certainly of the 1970's. and i think arguably of the latter half of the 20th century and that was the church committee. the church committee which was chaired by senator frank church
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began its work in the spring of 1975. and for the 16 months between the spring of 1975 and when they delivered 14 volumes of reports in 1976, the church committee held hearings, performed investigations, dug into background materials on the american intelligence services. and this was really the first mass scale investigation of what had been going on in american intelligence practices in the past 30 years, but arguably, back even further than that. the church committee held hearings investigating the fbi f.b.i. and the c.i.a. in particular, but also the n.s.a. military intelligence, and some , of the smaller agencies that were involved in intelligence activities as well. so, our job up here is to think a little bit about what some of the causes and consequences of
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the church committee hearings were. to think a little bit about their relationship, to the politics of the 1970's, particularly to watergate, to what is described as the investigative impulse of the 1970's, to some of the power struggles between the, between congress and the executive branch in the 1970's. so where did the church committee come from? why did it come about at that particular moment it did? as i said, it really was the first large-scale investigation of what it was that american intelligence agencies had been doing in the latter half of the 20th century at that point. we want to talk more about what some of the causes of the church committee were. we want to talk about what some of the consequences of the church committee were for the intelligence establishment, for politics in washington. many reforms came out of the church committee hearings. some of which made a great deal
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of difference. others of which did not make much of a difference at all. and there were some dashed hopes about the significance of the changes that will come out of the committee as well. we will talk a bit about the policy consequences. and i think also the consequences for the images of american intelligence citizens relationship to the intelligence agencies in the wake of what was discovered by the church committee. and i should note the pike committee. there was a similar investigation going on in the house. it was somewhat less well-known. its reports were suppressed and then finally released in the sort of left-wing press in the late 1970's, but maybe we want to talk of bit about the pike committee as well. two other issues i'm hoping we can get into have a little bit to do with the present day the and the practice of history. we have questions about the causes of the church committee. why did this happen when it happened? some of its consequences for
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american politics. but i think there are also a lot of evolving questions about the records that are available are -- or not available from the church committee. many of the executive sessions of the church committee and many of the materials are still not accessible to historianss. i think kate scott will talk more about where we are in the process. what new history might we yet learn from the church committee? i think we also want to talk about how it might link up with the present day. there are a lot of calls of the moment in the wake of edward snowden's exposes of the national security agency for a new church committee. do we want a new church committee? what would it mean? is that a desirable outcome? what would we learn? or is it not a desirable outcome in our present moment? so, hopefully, we will get to all of this. i also want to say a few things about the composition of the
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panel as i introduce our panelists. i was a member of the oah program committee and was charged with organizing some panels related to the kind of work i do in political and intelligence history. i'm currently writing a biography of j. edgar hoover. so, if you notice there is a kind of f.b.i.-centric lineup, that is entirely my doing because these are the people that i wanted to hear from. but the church committee got a locked into the c.i.a. too. , maybe we'll talk a bit about that. maybe we will not. but in putting the panel together, i had a couple of priorities beyond my own interest in hearing from this particular group. one, i wanted to talk to historians who were working within the federal government and outside of the federal government. and i also wanted to try to get a couple of generations together on the panel to talk about how our memories and experiences of the church committee have in fact changed over time. i'm grateful to the panelists
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for agreeing to do this. they are going to speak in the order in which they are seated. i will introduce them all individually in a moment. they are going to speak relatively briefly, give formal remarks about 10 minutes each. and then, since this is a roundtable, we will hopefully have a bunch of time left over for interchange. i should note the session is the being taped by c-span. everything that is said is being recorded appropriately enough for the panel. it will be disseminated to the world. there will be a historical record of what is said here. as you ask questions that means two things -- one, know that. and two, we are going to ask when we get to the q&a that you go up to the microphone so that the recording equipment in back can capture what you have to say. so now to introduce our panelists, we will move quickly through the lineup. they said they are going to
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speak in the order in which they are seated. laura is a professor of history at the university of california. she specializes in legal history. and i was hoping that she would participate in this panel because of her most recent book "right star rising." there is a lot of work being done on the 1970's right now. but her book is one of the best books in attempting to really integrate what is happening in the post-watergate moment into a larger narrative of american politics in that very transitional period. so, we are hoping she will be able to provide some political context for the church committee. next we have ethen harris who for anyone who studies the history of the f.b.i. is a very well-known man. he is the dean of f.b.i. studies
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in our country. and anybody who studies the f.b.i. owes him a massive debt of gratitude. myself included. ethan has not only written dozens of books about the f.b.i. and its history but has been really instrumental in acquiring huge volumes of f.b.i. files, and patiently, patiently awaiting freedom of information act requests to be fulfilled. in those records, happily for all of us, are now available at marquette university. it is just a wonderful repository. and a great contribution to american history. kate scott, or catherine scott is here. she is an assistant historian in the senate historical office. and is one of our great experts on congressional committees and how they operated. so she is going to be talking some about the senate and what the church committee meant within the senate and its
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operations related to a series of other committees that were investigating a variety of other things in the 1970's, including the presidency. she will talk about new work being done on the church committee from within the senate historical office. she is the author of "reining in the state." and finally, we have john foxx , who is the historian of the f.b.i., who works at the f.b.i., and has written a great deal on the f.b.i.'s history. anything you read on the f.b.i. website has been written by john foxx or supervised by john foxx if you are reading about the history of the f.b.i. he's also written a number of terrific articles about the history of the f.b.i. the , internal policy, and can give
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us some of the f.b.i.'s own perspective on what the church committee means 40 years out. so, with that we will start with the professor. and hopefully will hear from all of you soon, too. laura: i'll focus on two questions. what was the relationship between watergate and the church committee, and whose interests did the church committee serve? recall that what sparked the church committee was hirsch's christmas 1974 "new york times" story that during the nixon years, the c.i.a. created a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation against the anti-war left, which some linked to the houston plan of watergate fame. additionally, hirsch said, a check of the c.i.a.'s domestic
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files ordered by former director james schlesinger showed dozens of others illegal activities inside the united states dating back to the 1950's. thus, the hirsch revelations went far beyond watergate. and on the one hand, you can argue that watergate made establishment of the church committee less likely. as catherine olmsted stresses many reporters in december 1974 who were still reeling from their role in bringing down nixon ran away from hirsch's story. they worried about altogether eradicating trust in government. and igniting a backlash against the media. many disliked hirsch. and remained gripped by the old national security mistake that traditionally led the press and
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congress to shield the c.i.a. consequently, hirsch's resolved to carry the watergate mentality into the post-watergate era discomfited other reporters. and after the watergate trauma americans were burned out on politics. indeed, in many ways, it is unsettling how little contemporary public anger the church committee provokes. on the other hand, watergate made the establishment of the church committee more likely by leading first two congressional -- two congressional reassertion. had the story appeared before 1974, the senate would have tasked john stennis with investigating it, not a special committee. second, watergate promoted
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investigative reporting and fanned journalistic rivalries. many reporters may have hesitated to take on the secret government, but hirsch show that -- showed that just one could do a lot of damage. and he received loads of encouragement from abe rosenthal in part because of rosenthal's annoyance that "the washington post" had scooped "the times" on watergate. rosenthal said, "hirsch is like a puppy that is not house broken. but as long as he is pissing on post editor ben bradley's carpet, let him go ahead." "the post" went after the f.b.i. to catch up and revealed that j.
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edgar hoover kept files on everyone. so now it was not just the c.i.a. that needed investigation but also the f.b.i. third, watergate led nixon to get rid of the c.i.a. director. a very effective keeper of agency secrets. when helms resisted nixon's efforts to involve c.i.a. in the cover-up, nixon got his revenge on the agency by replacing helms with james schlesinger. he and his second command ordered c.i.a. insiders to disclose their activities in violation of the c.i.a.'s legislative charter. that led to the amassing of what the agency referred to as "the skeletons" and the media called the family jewels, that 693 page documentation of c.i.a. misdeeds
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that hirsch began exposing. when nixon replaced schlesinger with colby, he turned over control to someone who helms and others believed was all too willing to sing about the skeletons to reporters, the church committee, and president ford. had there been no watergate, helms would likely have stayed on at the c.i.a., stonewalled and the agency's skeletons might've stayed in the closet. fourth, watergate led to the ford presidency. when the hirsch allegations broke, ford listens to dick cheney who advised him to try heading off a congressional inquiry by naming a blue-ribbon national security establishment investigative committee headed by vice president nelson rockefeller. ford justified the rockefeller commission to "new york times" editors by stressing the need to
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appoint responsible people and restrict the scope of the investigation. the skeletons, he said, included evidence of c.i.a. assassination plots against foreign leaders and their disclosure would blacken the name of every president back to harry truman. was ford blurting out what lawyers call an excited utterance? or was he engaged in a calculated move to blacken the name of democrats along with republicans? whatever his motivation, it was a monumental leak. gripped by the national security mystique that helped explain the media's cool reaction to the hirsch story, "the times" did not print it. but predictably the news ford worried about exposure of assassination plots was passed to daniel short who predictably broadcasted it on tv.
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so now it was not just the c.i.a. illegal actions inside the united states and the fbi -- f.b.i. that cried out for investigation. but c.i.a. assassination plots too. now the media had to chase the story. and of course the senate and house decided they had to investigate the intelligence community. the house investigation, the pike committee self-destructiveed. but i think we owe a lot to the senate committee headed by frank church, a liberal democrat. with his eye on the presidential nomination. yes, church show boated and famously speculated the c.i.a. had behaved like a rogue elephant rampaging out of control. perhaps, too, he should've stood up more to the white house, the
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intelligence committee community , and its senate defenders. but especially given the amnesia that affected so many summoned before the church committee as johnson observes in his wonderful history and memoir of the church committee. everyone save colby. church's committee brought many c.i.a., f.b.i., and n.s.a. abuses to light. i am not so sure, though, that the church committee resulted in significantly improved oversight of the intelligence community. yes, it caused creation of the senate and house intelligence committees. but we need only look to the 1980's to see william casey misleading them about nicaraguan harbors and beyond leading to
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the executive order prohibiting the c.i.a. from political assassination, the series had -- hearings did not change c.i.a. operations or undercut the assumption that information about enemies must sometimes be acquired illegally. if anything, arguably the church committee became a convenient whipping boy. intelligence community defenders blamed everything from the 1975 murder of the c.i.a.'s richard welch on the church committee to 9/11 on the church committee's emasculation of intelligence agencies. colby's c.i.a. successor bush i, complained in 2005 that in 1975, congress disastersly unleashed a bunch of untutored little jerks against the c.i.a.
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he ignored the limited and temporary impact of the jerks. the eagerness to clip the c.i.a.'s wings had disappeared before the hearing ended. the f.b.i. also had little to fear from congress. sure, the church committee documented hoover's campaign of harassment against the left. but hoover died in 1972. since he had been the bureau's director for 40 years, it was easy to believe that no one would ever again possesses the less possess -- no one would ever again possess his power. so congress enacted no legislative charter for the fbi. the last f.b.i. the way was open for reagan to unleash it along with the c.i.a. the n.s.a. also emerged from the year of intelligence unscathed. though the church committee revealed that it monitored
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thousands of people's and organizations, phone calls and telegrams. the hearings did lead to passage of the foreign intelligence surveillance act which required the n.s.a. to obtain warrants from a new foreign intelligence surveillance court for eavesdropping on those suspected of contact with foreign powers and terrorist organizations. the pfizer court -- the fiza court received hundreds of warrant applications and never rejected one before 2001. some supervision. when we learn that bush ii circumvented the court after 9/11, some were nonplussed. as church committee member walter mondale said, there is disappointment and even anger that we are back where we started from. that is not, in conclusion to , downplay the very considerable achievements of the church committee. in this conference about taboos
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, it is appropriate to focus on the church committee, because it exposed so many surveillance abuses and pierced the veil of secrecy that hung over the national security establishment. i admire harris, johnson, fao schwarz, jr, and other committee veterans who cite post-9/11 surveillance abuses as reasons for a 21st century church committee. but what if congress stirred itself to create one? history does not repeat itself but as mark twain may or may not have said, history does often rhyme. the church committee may have provided just enough exposure of past abuses, just enough comfort that they were history to allow the continuation of business as usual. thank you.
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[applause] ethan: i think i am the parochial person on the panel in the sense that i will speak not as an be i historian but someone , who was appointed one of those jerks that she referred to as a consultant to the church committee in 1975. my appointment was to research the white house-f.b.i. relationship at presidential libraries. and the catalyst to this was a function of records that the committee had obtained. i'm going to focus my remarks on the f.b.i. that suggested the f.b.i. at times operated as the intelligence arm of the white house, and thus it is interesting to see and understand the nature of that relationship. but there was a certain other
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aspect of that, and that is the degree to which the f.b.i. seemed to be an autonomous agency that acted counteracted to the interests of the president. it seemed that researching presidential library's would extend the committee's ability to deal with the problem that led to its creation in the first place. i don't want to emphasize my importance, but in a sense i should note that it was rather minor. but i would like to comment on my experience. it does provide insights into the question that i think laura addressed. how do we understand the impact of the committee? we can understand the impact at least in terms of one of the committee's principal recommendation she referred to and that is for congress to enact legislative charters for the intelligence agencies. to takeaway from the president and the bureaucracies the exclusive authority to decide the scope and nature of their activities.
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the failure to enact those charters did mean that presidents and intelligence agency officials continued to exercise, admittedly reduced but considerable authority in establishing the nature of intelligence policy. it was sort of captured in the campaign of ronald reagan for the presidency in 1980. the need to unleash the intelligence agencies. and his election marks the end of any possibility of the enactment of legislative charters. the question is -- if the church committee, and i think some of you have read its hearings reports, conducted this unprecedented investigation having unprecedented access to formerly secret records why was , it its discoveries did not have that kind of impact that would lead to the restriction that i think was essential given what it found out in 1975? i would like to discuss three different factors. i think the first problem the
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committee confronted was a lack of foundation. because the records of these agencies were secret, the fbi -- f.b.i. had not turned over a single page of its records dating from its creation in 1908 to the national archives. when f.b.i. officials discovered that copies of f.b.i. reports were already deposited in the national archives and that state department, they succeeded in having those drawn from them -- withdrawn from circulation. the most notable was the diaries were the morgan fall diaries morgan thal diaries where morgenthal had his secretary transcribed his phone conversations, including with the f.b.i. director, and f.b.i. memos were discussed and policy matters, all of those were withdrawn from circulation. in a sense, we began with a very
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limited understanding of the actual nature of the f.b.i.'s history. so, to the extent that you begin, how do you identify the kind of records to give a full understanding of the way the bureau had operated in the 20th century, or at least in the latter decades after the 1940's? because the records were not available and because you had a very stringent classification restriction. so that when i went to the first two i went to, i had not received a security clearance. i could only see unclassified records. in one sense, how do you understand what records were relevant if you do not understand the way the bureau operated, and how can you understand what they were doing it the more significant records were classified? what i discovered, that human library, in a sense was -- the truman library. we did not begin with the roosevelt library because the head of the agency task force has conducted research at the roosevelt library and review this massive collection of fbi reports of the roosevelt administration.
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there were similar records in the truman period. now, some of those records for classified but what those records did establish was the degree to which the fbi volunteered information or acted responsive to requests from the president for essentially political informationed that -- essentially political information that enable the president to function effectively. when i went to the eisenhower library and i -- fbi reports of the white house, i was advised that was one folder consisting of 10 documents, all of which were classified. so, if you analyze that, you can say liberal presidents were willing to abuse the fbi for political purposes. but a conservative president who believed in law and order was
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committed to restraining the fbi to operate in a way that it should operate as a law enforcement agency. when i returned to the eisenhower library in december of 1975 with a security clearance, what i discovered was a massive, far more extensive than either truman or roosevelt, and what is even more interesting is that whereas you could not conclude from the truman and roosevelt what action the president had taken or even the president was aware, these were far more comprehensive and revealing records. what the problem the church committee confronted was how did it identify records and how could one research records that would provide insights into the way the intelligence committee -- committees operated? i would be one of those that would affirm the value of the church committee. what we uncovered was a limited understanding of the way these agencies operated. a second factor -- and i'm only talking from this perspective of
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a worm within the apple, a minor one -- was the response they had as researcher at presidential libraries. the problem for this from the point of view of the administration is the church committee was engaged in very difficult negotiations with the white house in terms of access to records. they were long discussions. the real problems from the point of the view of the administration, the case of henry kissinger, of having historians turned loose and having access to clarified -- classified records, you control what they saw in washington. but if you are allowed someone to go to classified records at presidential library is, what would be the consequences? so while very early on, i obtained a security clearance, i could not research classified records at presidential libraries without authorization from the white house.
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the committee staff decided after about a couple months -- i went in the summer to the truman and eisenhower -- that i should go to the johnson library, even though i did not have security clearance. once i arrived, i was supposed to call the committee and tell them i was there. which i did. they said to the white house you have been sitting on our request for authorization. we have this researcher at the library. and so, what worked out was this very cumbersome relationship. i had to identify classified records i wanted to see. and then i could not take notes. those records would be photocopied and sent to the white house. the white house would decide whether or not to turn them over to the committee. the problem this is that when you go through records at libraries, you do not know what the nature of some of these programs are, and you have this overclassification of records that i had to make these kinds of judgments, which i think my worst research experience was in the johnson library.
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that these might be the classified records i wanted to look at. in some respects, they were based on the fact the committee had, through its research at fbi files in washington, come across programs and issues and time frames. since i made certain guesses about the classified records that might be relevant. the archivist at the johnson library advised me that kissinger was opposed to the fact that what had happened at presidential libraries and those who had worked at presidential libraries with classified records, there is a sheet that indicates the name of the individual, the receipt, and the date. henry kissinger thought that was giving up too much information. [laughter] dr. thoeharis: what i found out is this was simply garbage, i mean, i could not simply
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understand why these were classified in the first was, and why they were classified by a 1970 -- 1970. i don't think i did a very good job in uncovering information that would be valuable to the committee between the johnson white house and the fbi. this was a one-shot approval, so i was not able to go to presidential libraries. fortunately, william safire wrote a column criticizing the church committee. the committee staff goes to the white house and says we are being beaten up, we are not allowed to do research at the kennedy library. so they made the same arrangement, i had to identify classified records, but in this case, it was far more valuable because while i didn't think i came across anything of significance in the presidential records aspect of this, the
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attorney general, because he was a brother of the president, was far more valuable and that added background information that was valuable to the committee. having been allowed to research two democratic presidents, the administration asked to see the information from eisenhower, which i ended up doing in 1975. there was classification restrictions and limited understanding, and there was the role of the ford administration in trying it to restrict the committee possibility of identifying pieces of interest. and the third and final fact it relates to the limited cooperation at that the fbi provided to the committee. let me cite some examples. the committee, in its review of confidential files, came across
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this black or, and this is a procedure established in 1942 for authorization of a black bag jobs. -- of black bag jobs. i do not know if you are aware of it. in a sense, what this memo established is between 1942-1966, the fbi conducted -- no more such techniques must be use. the fbi conducted black bag jobs, and it was deemed illegal, and you could not obtain the authorization of the attorney general. the fbi was doing its own thing. it was committing clearly illegal activities. it established this procedure that minimized the possibility of discovery that it was clearly illegal.
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the committee requested information from the fbi on targets of black bag jobs. this is between 1942-19 66. -- 1942-1966. the fbi responded that there was no index, file, or document, and because they were unable to answer specifically what the committee requested, but based on the review of records at fbi headquarters and recollections of fbi officials, the fbi conducted during this time, 239 break-ins involving 15 organizations occurred. if you evaluate that, that would suggest that the fbi had used this with great restraint and had used black bag jobs with respect to legitimate national security targets, communist officials and suspected communist agents.
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it turns out the fbi was not being forthright with the committee, because unbeknown to the fbi officials this time and discovered in march of 1976, the head of the new york fbi office, john malone, got a massive file of records recording fbi break-ins conducted by the new york office between 1954-1973. reviewing these records, i think this is a conservative estimate. the fbi between 1954-1973 in new york alone, conducted over 200 break-ins involving over 300 different individuals from different organizations. this is because of the surreptitious entries file that is known specifically that was massively redacted on its release, so it was difficult to ascertain information. because it is redacted, you can't tell if two memos involve two different organizations or a repetition of that.
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but it gives an insight into the scope of fbi break in activities. the socialist workers party brought suit in 1973 against the government because of a disclosure of it being one of the targets of the fbi program. at the same time, they brought suit of a violation of constitutional rights. they have the release of the houston plan that explodes -- that expose a series of plans that would be conducted -- wiretaps, bugs, break-ins, etc.,
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mail openings. in the discovery phase attorneys for the swp requested all records related to break-ins. the u.s. attorneys responded conceding that they had conducted break-ins. there had been break-ins and wiretaps -- there had been wiretaps but no break-ins. this led u.s. attorneys to advise the court and admitted that the fbi had in fact broken into swp offices between 94 and 96 times. there was a concession that in new york alone, there was 208 break-ins involving swp offices and dwellings of swp members, as
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well as break-ins in detroit newark, chicago, milwaukee, and boston offices as well, as well as los angeles and in connecticut -- in new haven, connecticut. you learned about the policy but essentially what you have. reflected in these records is the indiscriminate nature, relatively, of fbi break in operations. these operations continued after 1936, which raised questions about who were's order banning break-ins -- regarding hoover's order banning break-ins, which raises a whole series of questions about the nature of fbi operations. the second file that the fbi did not provide to the church committee was this massive
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security index. the fbi assigned symbol numbers to its sources in order to safeguard their identity. in the case of sensitive sources, there is an asterisk. there is the acronym of an office, and then an asterisk would indicate -- and what the index would establish is the target of the fbi break-ins, the name of the organizations and the individuals, and the day of termination -- and i am going to end soon -- so what you have here is a tremendous finding aid and it would've been helpful to the committee to be able to look into specific case files and to figure out and ascertain why a wiretap or a bug was installed. to summarize since i have gone
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beyond my time, what was not authorized -- what was not ascertained by the church committee was why the fbi did this, and it would have establish the value and the necessity for stringent restrictions imposed by congress and not by the executive branch. in a sense, while i think the church committee did a very good job in terms of relative history, it failed to establish the kind of a record that could have ensured the kind of reforms that i think it's a limited findings of 1975 established. [applause] dr. scott: thank you, my name is kate scott, and i work at the senate historical office. i think in part to answer
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-- my duty is sort of a two-part role today. one is to provide a long history of the church committee, in particular changes in the institution particularly in the 1970's, but secondly, maybe to speak to the point to talk about this lesser-known pike committee, i think we haven't done a sufficient job answering this, and why was the senate investigation more successful than the house inquiries? i will speak to those and also i want to begin by saying something about a project i have been working on in the past year. about 15 months ago, i attended a church committee panel sponsored by one of the law
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schools in washington dc -- washington, d.c. when i was in the audience, i soon learned it wasn't panelists speaking about the church committee, but there were former staff members, walter mondale was also there, but the audience was filled with church committee staffers, and they were all very eager to talk. what we do in the senate historical office is document history by speaking to long serving senate staff. they are the closest to the action, they are the people who staff the committee's. -- committees. we try and catch them typically soon after their retirement to ask them questions about the changes in the institution and what they witnessed during their time there. since i had always committee staffers in the audience and they seemed so eager to talk
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about their experience and they did not have time on the panel i just started passing out my card. over the past 15 months, that is what i have been doing. now the collection totals 16 individuals, one of them is walter mondale, the other 15 are senate staffers on the committee. i am thinking now i should ask athan since he is here if you would like to participate. i can speak comfortably about them today, knowing that this material will be released probably in the fall of this year, in part to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the creation of this committee. i am going to use some of the material from those interviews to explore some questions that we haven't done a decent job exploring as scholars. even though we have had 40 years of very good scholarship there are still some things i inc. of, particularly from my perspective as an institutional historian, that we would like to know more
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about, and that is what we are going to be talking about today. if we want to talk about the long history of the church committee, we have to go before -- go back 20 years before that. because senator mike mansfield was the first senator in the 1950's to support a resolution -- to submit a formal resolution asking his colleagues to establish a special investigation of the cia specifically. this really become mike mansfield's pet project in the next 20 years. this is a good reminder to all of us that sometimes we have to play the long game in politics. mike mansfield was patient and he waited until just the right moment until he had bipartisan support for such an investigation. by 1975, that investigation goes far beyond the cia. these intelligence activities are happening in the united
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states, they are domestic surveillance programs, and they are happening within a variety of federal institutions. more importantly, to this point about the late 1960's and early 1970's in the u.s. senate, we really have to look at this as beverly suggested, as a time of -- there is a deep impulse within the senate of the 1970's of inquiry and oversight. a recognition by democrats, and importantly, and i think this is something we need to do a header job of telling of republicans and moderate republicans saying that congress has been derelict in its duty and has not exercised effective oversight over these many years, these decades now, over the intelligence community, and that congress needs to reassert its prerogative.
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so, why does this happen in 1975? if we go back even a couple of more years, beyond seymour hersh, we know this is happening in a very deliberate way in the u.s. senate. it really lays the groundwork for the church committee. the first one is something i have written about in my look, -- in my book which is similar ervin fell investigation in the 1970's about a domestic army surveillance program. it is really important, it is significant that it is done and handled very carefully, very intelligently like conservative democrat sam ervin, because he will go on to chair the watergate committee. that certainly lays the groundwork. i wanted to point to the fact that some of his staff later go on to serve on the watergate and the church committees. one of the things that we can do
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a better job of doing is remembering some of these untutored little jerks are actually not little jerks. they have not only senate experience, but they have particular investigation experience on these very sensitive issues related to national security. that is going to be so important related to the way as to not only how the church committee rolls out, but also how the senate rolls it out because the senate will have to later consider these recommendations. one of these guys that i interviewed who worked for senator ervin had a lot agree, -- had a law degree. he served in the, i believe he was in the marines, and senator ervin really liked his profile.
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so he came to work on the investigation into domestic army surveillance, and he was actually the principal author on the final report on the investigation. and then you have maryland republican charles mathias, who was a moderate republican, very well respected by his peers, and in 1971, he calls for a special inquiry. he says, we've got this problem, the expansion of the war in southeast asia, we've got to stop, but we can't, because the administration is calling on these 150 year old emergency powers to fund these military efforts, so matthias says we've got to do something about this. congress needs to act. on the request of a republican senator during a republican administration, we create, the senate creates, this committee. it is a little-known committee it is known as the special committee to terminate the national emergency. what they did for four years, i don't they concluded their efforts until 1975 during the church committee, but during those four years, they were
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looking into the statutes that the president's had used over the years and that congress had approved and that -- presidents had used over the years and that congress had approved. they amassed a list of over 400 statutes. this granted presidents, both democrat and republican, extraordinary powers. so you've got people, you've got this great combination of things going on, you've got republicans saying that this has to stop. john sherman cooper, a republican from kentucky, being one of them of course. author of the cooper amendment working on these issues. more importantly trying to reassert congressional authority and prerogative in these areas. important to note, on this committee to terminate national emergency, there are two chairs,
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frank church is one of the chairs, but his cochair, that title grants special powers to the minority members, and it is mack matthias. he goes on to serve on the church committee. the two things i am trying to get on is the scope of the oversight and investigation and secondly, it is very much a republican and democratic effort, and we have often overlooked that and it deserves further exploration. second, and this speaks to really what we have mentioned, and it is the enormity of the task. you have got this staff -- at its peak, the staff is about 150 people. they are tasked with this extraordinary task.
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congress has been derelict in its duty for decades. so where do you begin? that was really one of the questions that i post to one of -- posed to one of the people of whom i interviewed, where do you begin? how do you start? what did you do? the great thing was, and again this was the connection to the institutional knowledge here, many of these folks had served on these committees. they were tracking down the no such agency -- or the nsa. when we handle some of our questions here, maybe we can handle the legacy with the nsa. and maybe some mixed results, as laura suggested. i would also like to say that literally nobody knew about this agency in 1975, so that in itself is deserving of recognition. britt snider is one of the people working on these things and you have another couple
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people whom i have interviewed who worked on the watergate committee, one of them was howard baker's legal counsel on watergate and served as his legal counsel on the church committee. you've got another woman who worked in the research center for both the watergate and the church committee investigations. >> kates, you have two minutes -- kate, you have two minutes. dr. scott: thank you, and the -- let me just say literally you all probably remember, literally these two committees happened in the senate, and the watergate committee sets up a really careful security apparatus. they hire security to come in and hide these documents, and the use the same type of arrangement as when they initiate the church committee inquiry. the senate has this experience with managing and controlling documents and information, and it has done it responsibly. the house doesn't have the same
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kind of experience. i think that does help explain in some ways, the differences between the senate and house investigations. there is a lot there that we can pack and explore. let me just conclude with a couple of questions i would like us to consider moving forward as scholars, as a community of people who care deeply about this stuff. how do we evaluate institutional outcomes 40 years later? i think we need to know more about the institution in order to appreciate the legislative outcomes. i think that is a too something lacking our scholarship -- that institutional scholarship is lacking in are investigating. this was not a foregone conclusion at all by any means which i thought was fascinating, and i am definitely going to be exploring that further. there were powerful individuals in the senate, you can imagine who those people were, and that tells us something about both the historic moment that allows for the church committee
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investigation but also about the limitations of that investigation and we always need to be mindful of that. howard baker actually wanted a joint committee, he wanted a joint intelligence oversight committee, but because of what happened in the house, that is just something that was not going to happen. and the house and senate were considering these legislative possibilities after the church committee investigation, because it does tell us a lot about the pushes and the pulls. remember, these are less homogenous political groups at this time. you have conservatives and liberals in a both parties, so i think we need to pay more attention literally to what the lawmakers are saying about their objections to this legislation in order to understand 40 years later.
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we need to understand that moment in order to understand how we might need to approach revisions in the future. i will leave it there and we will do questions later. thank you. [applause] dr. fox: i do have to make a bit of a copy yet, these are my views of the fbi, and if there -- a bit of a caveat, these are my views, not those of the fbi. and if there is any doubt of that, they hired me, so at least they made a good choice, i hope. this is what beverly wanted me to talk about and this is the impact on the fbi. to do that, i think i need to cover a little bit about the state of the bureau before all
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of this is going on. you may get a hint at it, but my colleagues certainly talked about things that would have an impact on changing the fbi regardless of whether the church committee ever happened. then i would like to talk about what the church committee intended to do, what they did, and of course, what they recommended should be done. and if you have seen a book 2 of the final report, they make some 96 suggestions. so there is quite a little bit
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that they wanted to see done. then we can talk about how that came to the present and how that impacted the fbi and whether those changes are permanent or not or whether they were effective. obviously i have some opinions there and i have happy to share them. so, with that said, the early 1970's, the fbi was in a state of significant change. hoover had just died, 1972, may 2, he had been the director for 40 years. both for good and bad, and you could tell that the questioning of hoover's reign had come about. there were hundreds of documents stolen in a break-in and revealed publicly for the first time a codename which nobody knew what it was. a reporter from nbc asked the fbi what it was and got a reply of it was a very sensitive program and we are not going to say anything more about it, so he sued. over the next couple of years, revelations about what coin tell pro were started to drip out. the justice department was forced to commit its own investigation about it and that also leads to significant
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changes in the way that fbi -- the way that the fbi handles that and the freedom of information act. in 1974, we have seymour hersh's article, that laura talked about. we had the senate committee address the problems within the intelligence community, and within a month, senate resolution 21 is passed and the , committee is asked with looking at the illegal improper, or unethical activities within the intelligence agencies, especially with regard to domestic americans. what are they doing at home? if we look at the next couple of months, of course, the public look at it seems to focus more on the cia. not a lot seems to come out about the fbi at the time.
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church was immediately selected as the head, and within a day or two, he was telling "the new york times" that the new senate subcommittee would target the fbi and other information gathering agencies, having exceeded the statutory limits on their authority. we are going to balance the rights of the people and to see if any transgressions have taken place. i think fred schwartz, the council, in commenting on his recent book that just came out vowed that the purpose of the committee was seen at the main job as exposing illegal and embarrassing secrets to build momentum for reform. so we've kind of got both of these things going on. on the one hand, church, of course, is saying we still need an intelligence community and we are still going to need one. but it has done some wrong things and we have to figure out what those are and we have to correct that so it does not
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happen again. obviously, a laudatory goal. how does the administration look at this? the fbi, of course, over january, february, march, begins compiling documentation. it has never been good at looking at its own history. you didn't have a historian. it didn't have a historical program. as far as the last historical monograph that had been written of the fbi, it was the history of its special intelligence service during world war ii, which ended in 1947. so, self reflection was not one of our strong points. [laughter] the administration was concerned. u.s. state department just put out something on the church
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committee. regrettably, i have only found out about it this week. clearly, the administration was concerned. how do we deal with this? what are we going to do? secretary kissinger was worried about whether the nsa was going to take a big hit. deputy attorney general silverman commented and said the fbi may be the sexiest part of this. we will put -- the bureau would look to dribble it out. this will divert attention. this relates only to illegal activity. obviously, they were starting to consider, how do we deal with this? like washington is in politics what part of the story do you tell? how often do you tell it? why do you tell it? what is going to happen of it? in november of 1975, the committee first turned publicly to the fbi. it had already done a lot of background interviews.
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it had been collecting documents. the questions had been limited. they asked about the kennedy assassination. they asked sam coppage, our liaison to the cia for years about fbi-cia relationships. by the time that the november hearings come around, the focus is coined tell probe. the attorney general's report comes out. the fbi has been forced to reduce that release documents under the freedom of information act. that was a first. the fbi prior to that had not released information. it considered itself exempt because of various reasons, and the courts were beginning to say no. in fact, we were already involved in a number of suits related to the freedom of information act, as well as in relation to some of our earlier surveillance practices that had been coming out in relation to the watergate hearings. one young girl had sued us because the fbi opened her mail that she sent to the socialist workers party for a school project.
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they wanted her file purged. we were being sued by the socialist workers party at that point for some of the investigations that have been done. of course, many of the actions have been taken against the socialist workers party. that was in there. of course, if meant a lot of discovery in court. all these things are going on even as church is interrupting. of course, one of the bureau officials who was questioned was a man named william sullivan who during the 1960's was a senior fbi official. he eventually got thrown out of the bureau.
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he was involved in sending a package of tapes of fbi surveillance of dr. king to the family house, along with letter that beverly has written about suggesting that king should get out of the business. some people have taken it as a suicide note. regardless, it was obviously over and above anything the fbi should have been connected to. of course, had it come out during hoover's day, hoover should have been fired regardless whether he was protected over the years, but when it came out in the mid-70's, it did a lot to affect the reputation of the fbi. political abuse -- in other words, working especially with next and and johnson over the -- nixon and johnson over the
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years -- had come out. unjustified intelligence investigations at the church committee signaled out, and a number of administrative things. fbi records practices and certain investigative practices were all focused on in these hearings. if you look at the actual published hearings, volume six on the fbi is the thickest of the bunch, and it has a lot of fbi documents. these are things that people have never seen before, and the fbi considered its records sacrosanct, whether it was a typewriter receipt. we just bought this typewriter. or it was, we just broke into the socialist workers party and found these documents. the church committee was airing hoover's dirty laundry, but it went beyond that. it touched on what the fbi had done all through those years. so, the next year, 1976, the church committee is supposed to report.
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they end up taking a number of extensions. the report ends up coming out in late april. when it is released, the impact doesn't seem to appear right away. one "new york times" reporter suggests it came in with a big wave of scandal and news conferences and people really chomping at the bit to get at these intelligence agencies and the abuses, and it is going out with more of a whimper here. yet if we look at their recommendations, if we look at the report, i think there is something deeper there. the committee said that it found actions by the intelligence community and other government entities had infringed on the rights and liberties of americans. even incidentally, fear of domestic intelligence, it suggested, had an impact on the way people exercised their first
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amendment rights and was a worrying thing. not just direct action but even knowledge of that has an impact. so, the committee made 96 recommendations, more than half of which were directly aimed at the fbi. in general, they had a couple principles in making these recommendations. they said action that directly infringes on first amendment rights has to be prohibited. they saw cointelpro in this light. they wanted the government where it did things that might have an impact on someone's first amendment rights, a collateral impact, to use a means test, much like the supreme court first amendment decisions. it had to show a compelling government need, had to minimize the impact. of course, they wanted procedural safeguards, things
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like higher officials, attorney generals, the president signing off of these things. they wanted congressional notification. this was very key in the issue of covert action, especially with the cia. congressional notification was to be key. congress would play a role. this is where i diverge a little bit from my fellow panelists. the lack of oversight, i think had to do with the inherent understanding of the role of intelligence and executive power. the problem in the 1960's is the intelligence practices were simply being aimed abroad. they never completely were. intelligence practices have been used in america against american citizens for many years before that, but it really came to a fore because of the radicalization of antiwar and civil rights movements and the governments overreaction because of the turn to violence in some of those movements. we had the emergence of the weather underground.
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people simply aren't burning draft cards. they are throwing bombs. this change has focused us here at home here in america, and , that is why the fbi really comes to the fore in these things. so -- >> i'm giving you your two-minute warning. >> thank you. the church committee is not supposed to say, no domestic investigations, but rather that they need to be limited. so, is the fbi limited? well not by legislative charter. that is the biggest proposal coming out of this. the effects of the charter do come through attorney general guidelines. those guidelines have carried through. they are a public statement of how the fbi should work. does it perfectly follow them?
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obviously not. there have been obvious reports over the years at the guidelines have been tweaked because of policy issues, but overall, it is a permanent feature of how the fbi does business. that is a significant change. fisa, i think, is another one. for years, the general suction have been foreign intelligence electronic surveillance is an issue of executive authority. that's it. now we have court oversight. where church was concerned about checks and balances, those are starting to come in. and the creation of a permanent senate intelligence committee is another check. the fact that we have regular hearings, the fact that the intelligence community is called for iran-contra, the fbi is called to the carpet for the investigation into the committee for solidarity with the people of el salvador, suggest changes. these are things that didn't happen before 1976, but they are things that happen now.
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fbi agents were prosecuted for break-ins, and two of them were convicted, mark phelps and william miller. that is a change. fbi agents hadn't been convicted for those things before. and so on. i think the church committee though it didn't get what it wanted, it did affect many of the changes that it was looking for. in a sense, it's not business as usual, but sometimes it does rhyme with it. [applause] >> thank you to the panelists, and i think we can open this up. we have about 15 minutes left for q and a. for those of you who came in late, i will remind you that we are being recorded by c-span.
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anything that you say will go out on broadcast. for that reason, i would also ask, as our first participant is doing as a model, that you go to the microphone for your questions. >> [no audio] i've got many questions, but i will limit myself to two. first of all, kate, i was wondering if you could talk about whether this moment -- how does this moment fit into our sense of the senate as as consisting of four political parties? you've got the northern and southern wing of the democratic party and republican party. is this the last her rock were last moment of this model that exists in the senate? my question to you, laura -- specifically, how did the 1974 electoral results and the watergate babies coming into congress -- does that have any part in this particular story, or are they separate from it?
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thank you. dr. scott: thank you. to the question of, is this the last -- i don't know if i would think about it that way in terms of conservative republicans and democrats, liberal republicans and democrats. again, i will just go back to the composition. if we go back to the composition of the committee, it's fascinating who the two leaders select. mansfield and the republican from pennsylvania, they choose -- the committee membership runs the political spectrum. you've got your liberals and your conservatives, but you also have some folks who aren't easily defined, especially on these issues. someone i've spent a lot of time exploring -- the contributions of richard speicher, the republican of pennsylvania. he was a moderate republican. he was incredibly influential in pushing some of the issues particularly on budgets. let's make sure that these
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budgets are known. they shouldn't be hidden. we should understand them. that should be part of the constitutional process. max matthias is another one. howard baker. i don't know if i see their regional identities in this case as important as i see the moderates doing a lot of work, and the moderates, i think, are actually the majority of the committee rather than the liberals or the conservatives. we know that goldwater and tower had these minority views, but in the course of interviewing staff who worked for republicans staff who worked for democrats staff who were self identify as republicans or democrats, they said they thought tower and goldwater did a decent job. they weren't particularly engaged as many of the other
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members were, but that they certainly didn't try and stand in the way. if you look at any senate investigation, and you look in the appendix, you are going to find most of the time, there is a minority view appended to that report. it is a common practice. i think maybe we have stressed that too much. we know that one of towers ' staffers sort of worked to try to limit the investigation curtis smothers. unfortunately, he has passed away, so i can't ask him what his work was like or what he was tasked to do. likewise senator towers past. -- senator passed. but i think that if we look at the committee's makeup, we can learn a lot about a moment in the senate when there was a real bipartisan effort to change something that was very significant that had a large impact on american society. professor ckalman: my sense
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is that the watergate babies were more important in the house than in the senate. i think kate reminds us how much of the impetus for the church committee precedes watergate and how bipartisan the impulse was. i think that's really important. i think what is interesting about watergate is that it may be added to the impetus for reform for people like baker and it's really important to remember how bipartisan the effort was, but also that things were passed in the fall of 1974 even before the story, like the
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hughes riot amendment, which required the president to report covert activities. they were really, in substance more important, arguably, then anything that the church committee came up with. watergate's relationship to all of this is complex. >> [indiscernible] >> this was a great panel. i learned a lot from this. i was somewhat surprised to hear the emphasis on how little actually changed because of the church commission, how little things actually changed or the limited of facts. in some ways, many of you would
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say that, and then he would backtrack and list a number of things that happened. i wondered whether this panel might have had different conclusions about the impact of the church committee had been speaking in 1998. i'm wondering, in the post-9/11 world, how much of these things are creeping back in? a different way of asking the question might be, how is the church committee like and unlike the more recent torture report? just looking at those different issues, it seems like there were some changes for a while, and maybe there weren't, and then maybe there were some backtracks. i would love to hear your perspective on that issue. >> let me take that question. i've got to push the button. i think the issue that the church committee posed was, what should be the limits, and who should define the limits of the intelligence agencies? that is why i focused on legislative charters. what the legislative charter proposal says is, if you take this out of the exclusive authority of the president because you can't trust the president and intelligence agencies not to abuse power.
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the basis for the two examples like it at the end directly address that. i think it was a factor in the failure to have that impact. if one looks at the national security electronic surveillance index file, you have the extensive use of wiretaps and bugs between 1940 and 1968. the fbi's installation of bugs is based on the prior review of the attorney general. with certain exceptions, the fbi installed bugs without the authorization of the attorney general. it raises the question, to what extent, if you look at the scope of individuals and organizations that were targets of wiretaps and bugs -- who was being tapped and bugged, and what legitimate security interests were being advanced? that is an interesting question which was not pursued. if i look at the issue of break-ins, the socialist workers
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party was the target of 208 break-ins between -- by seven field offices. it doesn't seem to be a very effective use of the nation's resources, and it raises the question, if you give them this kind of discretion, you break in and break in again and find nothing that advances the nation's security interest -- that was the history of the break-ins conducted between writing 58 and 1966. then if you look at the do not file procedure where fbi officials are saying, what we are doing is illegal, and we are going to do a procedure against discovery -- one of the best questions was, isn't this a failsafe method? you establish a procedure by which you submit these records. they are not centralized in the
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fbi record system. thus, the fbi can respond to a congressional subpoena court-ordered discovery motion and say, we searched our records. there is no evidence of illegal conduct. that is not oversight in any sense. it does raise the question, i think, that was posed by the investigation, and that was not the basis for reform to ensure that these abuses were not recur again if you leave it to discretion, even of attorneys general and principled presidents. it invites, for very good reasons, the national interests of defined by a president 's intelligence officials to move well beyond what we would consider to be legitimate. dr. scott: -- dr. gage: if i could jump in on
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that -- to give a slightly more positive view of the church committee, i think there are a number of ways of measuring influence, and one of them is particular legislative outcomes, policy outcomes. i think there were real limits there. as john suggested, there is a shift, at least in the state of view of who should be conducting oversight. i think that is one set of questions. in many ways, to me, the much more important outcome of the church committee was simply exposing information. whatever the legislative outcomes were, you really changed what americans knew and what they understood themselves to know about what their intelligence agencies were doing. this is particularly notable in the case of the fbi. you had seen a lot of cracks in the image of someone like j edgar hoover certainly before he died and before the church committee, but the church committee really was the kind of final nail in the coffin of what had been his image for a long time, which was hoover the civil libertarian, hoover, the man who would not abuse his power. this is one of the reputations that kept him in office. there were a lot of people who knew this sort of wasn't true
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but you have a lot of documentation of that before this moment. in terms of how citizens of imagined what their intelligence agencies were doing and whether or not there needed to be a set of restraints, i think the church committee was really transformative in that sense. the last piece that i will throw out -- i think you also have a kind of generational story which is to say that the reforms that were put in place like fisa, like the intelligence committees, were maybe pretty effective or effective in certain ways in their moment as technologies changed, as we ran into the crisis of the post-9/11 world, as the intelligence agencies themselves expanded and changed. those structures haven't necessarily kept up so that whatever was put in place in the 1970's is not necessarily what we would want a place where it is not necessarily effective in the world that we live in now.
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>> i would also add -- of course, we are a nation with a three-branch government. the church committee's impact isn't simply on whether or not the congress ends of passing legislation. the church committee's impact was much broader. forcing the fbi in a sense to search its closets, forcing the executive branch, especially the department of justice, to own up to more oversight of what the fbi was doing, exposing a number of these issues for the courts to consider and four people, the public, to consider in the brain to the courts -- this all goes into the freedom of information act, which led to a lot of those suits over the next 40 years -- all of this was attributable to the revelations of the church committee. even if the politics of the congress do not lead to legislative enactment of all 96 recommendations, does not lead
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to a massive fbi charter, which was opposed by a number of people in congress, obviously, doesn't mean that it didn't have a big impact in many other ways. that is what i was trying to suggest. certainly, the fbi does not do business in the same way it did before that. >> i think i would have sounded less despairing in 1998, but based on my readings of historians like johnson and olmsted who have written about the church committee in the 1980's and 1990's, i think i would've come to a pretty similar conclusion in terms of its impact on policy outcomes. that said, i wouldn't want to
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deny the fact that the church committee is a huge deal. as kate said nobody knew that the nsa was before the church committee. i am a little disappointed that the fbi building is named after you are hoover. i think the church committee investigation was a monumental achievement for the u.s. senate. i also think that it was a sea change in a lot of ways but i would add that congress often does its best work when serving as a national forum on issues of importance.
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in this case, i think that some of these things that were brought out and discussed perhaps not at every level of society, these real constitutional questions, the fact that they were discussed for a whole year is a really big deal. i think that we ought not to overlook that, despite what we might see as limited legislative achievement. i just wanted to make that point. >> if there are no other questions, is there anyone else who wants to weigh in? a final word in these last two minutes? all right, we will leave it there. thank you very much for coming out and thank you to the panelists for participating in this discussion. [applause]
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